Has this ever happened to you:
The phone rings….”Ms. Judy, I’m sorry but _______ has a soccer game and can’t come to lessons on Saturday.”
Or the phone doesn’t ring and _______ doesn’t show up at all and then next week or two later when he does come for lessons _____’s parent tells you “Oh, he had a soccer game, didn’t I tell you?”
The former is frustrating and the latter will make you reconsider your commitment to teaching.
Children are wonderful precious jewels, but sometimes parents can be difficult to deal with! If either of these situations is happening, you need to STOP and open up your policy letter.
What? You don’t have a policy letter? Okay, I can help you with that too; after all I started out without one too.
My policy letter has the following structure:
- About me
- What taking lessons means
- Books and Materials you will need
- The “fun stuff” (my rewards system)
- Good manners for parents and students
- Recitals, Group Lessons, Auditions
- Fees, including a late fee that I enforce,
And my most important and last item
- NO MAKEUP LESSONS.
I didn’t start with a policy of No makeup lessons, simply because I couldn’t afford to lose all my students as I was afraid I would when they heard of such blasphemy. With the use of technology, along with some very clever ideas from other teachers, I have successfully changed my policy to where my teaching hours are set in stone. This is so important if you have a family or value your time!
I give my students the opportunity to be on a swap list, I facetime lessons for illness or inclement weather, and most importantly, when someone just can’t come, I use their time to prepare things for them. If I decided to take a break when they would normally come, I really do make up the time for them later. I have a file for each student and I can spend the time making what they need…a fun game, a set of laminated flashcards or just pull lots of fun songs at their level. I sometimes will ask the student to record themselves later and send me the recording so I can see if there are any glaring mistakes that should be fixed right away, and this helps those about to take an audition or perform at a competition.
Do I ever do Makeup lessons?
Yes. Don’t get confused. Because I am my own boss I get to ultimately decide when I will be flexible.
I have a wonderful family that takes both violin and piano lessons from me, and because I can’t fit all into my schedule, they come on 2 days a week. They also take off work to bring the 3 children for lessons when I have Symphony rehearsals, which happens about 10 times a year. So when they have an out of town commitment, I’m more than happy to reschedule their lessons because they are so flexible with my schedule!
“I need a spine when it comes to payments”
I had a family who was habitually late with payments, most likely because we were friends. I did charge them a late fee every month….until they did me a HUGE favor one day driving me to the ER when I fell down my stairs! Will I ever charge them a late fee again? Most likely no, and at least not for a year. This is the great thing about being your own boss.
Make getting paid your #1 priority. Unless you would teach for free, this is the reason you are teaching in the first place. My policy says I accept checks or paypal, but in dire circumstances I’ll accept a credit card. There are many cheap options for getting a card reader that works with a smartphone, so there is no reason not to have one for emergencies.
Exceptions to rules:
Don’t put ANY exceptions to rules in your policy. You get to decide in every situation. I would never write that any military family will get huge leniency from me in payment, especially when they are moving or furloughed, but that is my decision (because my dad was in the military and I remember the struggle to afford everything!)
Now back to _____ and his missed lesson. I love this sentence. “any student who doesn’t attend their lesson will miss the benefit of that lesson”
Fees: Here is my experience with payment: Weekly=Disaster, Yearly=Scary, Monthly=Just Right!
Be sure to tell parents that because you make your living for your family from lessons you charge a flat monthly fee. Having a fixed income is great for your budget, so if you charge weekly and loose income on vacations or sick days, you may want to consider this! Also tell parents all the options of missing a lesson…facetimeing the lesson, Ms. Judy using their time to work for them, or they can make up the time on a bonus day. I call my bonus days a bonus because you can get bonus free time if you come to all your lessons, but if you miss a lesson, you can think of bonus day as a makeup lesson. I take a few hours on a day when school is out (and usually the day before a recital) to offer as a bonus day to my students. Everyone feels like they are winning and the kids love it. Sometimes there is only one student and it is like a lesson, but the more that come, it starts to feel like a performance class or group lesson. Sometimes I’ll pull out a fun game too. No one complains about bonus day!
Thanks so much for reading my blog. After teaching for 20 years I’ve written a book that is a best seller in it’s category on Amazon.com! I also love to spend my mornings doing consulting work with other Violin and Piano teachers. I really love helping other Piano and Violin Teachers find enthusiasm for teaching and the tools to make it a full time job. You can find my book here:
Thanks for stopping by! All amazon links are affiliate links which means i get a small, very small even, some would say minuscule percent of profits. I thank you for checking out the products listed and know that I use the income generated to keep this website up and running! Thanks!